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Wed, 19 Jun 2024 Business & Finance

GRA Boss Unilaterally Wills Ghana's Domestic Tax Mobilization To Indian Company, Tata

By Samuel Dowuona II Contributor
Julie Essiam, GRA Commissioner General (left), Ken Ofori-Atta, former Finance Minister choose Amar Deep (middle) and Tata from India over Ghanaian companyJulie Essiam, GRA Commissioner General (left), Ken Ofori-Atta, former Finance Minister choose Amar Deep (middle) and Tata from India over Ghanaian company
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The recently appointed and first female Commissioner-General of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) Julie Essiam has UNILATERALLY approved the shady deal for an Indian company called Tata Consultancy Services and its Ghana-based Indian partners, IPMC to take over Ghana's domestic tax mobilization in 2026.

Very reliable sources at GRA have intimated to Techfocus24 that the CG, whose appointment was engineered by former finance minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, actually travelled to Indian herself and signed the contract with Tata in India, to come and start work in 2026. She then congregated the staff of the Domestic Tax Revenue Department (DTRD) and urged them to cooperate with Tata when they come to install their software at GRA.

Additionally, Julie Essiam is said to have migrated all IT and IT contracts from Support Services Department (SSD) of GRA to the Commissioner-General's office, so that she will have personal oversight.

This whole move was orchestrated from 2022, when Rev. Dr. Amishaddai Owusu-Amoah was Commissioner-General of GRA. But he had to truncate the whole process in January 2023 for very genuine reasons - including the fact that GRA had no money to undertake the contract, and also because the current contractor for domestic tax mobilization is a local company that has been lauded widely for doing a fantastic job for far less remuneration than what some players in the industry take for doing relatively less.

Techfocus24 earlier reported that the former CG was replaced with Julie Essiam mainly because he stood in the way of that deal when he realized it was not in the national interest. But the outgoing government, through the help of their new henchman, Julie Essiam, have finally managed to sign away Ghana's domestic tax mobilization to Indians.

Take note that come 2026, the current government will be out of power, no matter which political party wins the 2024 elections. So, they have closed a deal through a unilateral approval by Julie Essiam, with a three-edged sword which shortchanges a competent local company, hands of the data of Ghanaians to an Indian company on a silver platter, and also poses judgement debt risk for the new government.

Way back January 3, 2024, the former CG of GRA, Dr. Owusu-Amoah wrote to IPMC/Tata informing them that the whole process to award a contract for the building of an Integrated Tax Administration System (ITAS) had been CANCELLED because of budgetary cuts.

This was after Techfocus24 had initiated investigations into the whole deal and spoken with some key people at GRA, all of whom were opposed to the moves to take the contract from a very competent Ghanaian company called Axon Information Systems, whose ITAS called GITMIS had been lauded for helping GRA far exceed revenue targets for three years running.

Dr. Owusu-Amoah's abrupt removal from office came together with the complete dissolution of the GRA Board, then led by Dr. Oteng Gyasi, who together with his board members, were also opposed to the deal.

Since the dissolution of the GRA Board, there has not been a new board. So, Julie Essiam has been working on this deal unilaterally, until now that she had single-handedly approved the contract for Tata and their local agents, IPMC, in spite of the objections of the former board, and that of Public Procurement Authority (PPA) and the Central Tender Review Committee (CTRC).

Previously when Techfocus24 reached out to several officials at GRA and recently past board members, everyone of them passed the buck to the new GRA boss, saying she is the only one who knows what she is doing. Now some GRA staff are of the belief that she may have signed the deal for Tata, but getting workers to cooperate will be very hard, as the deal is largely viewed as shady and "not in the national interest."

It would also appear that the alleged boastful claims by officials of IPMC/Tata that they will get the deal at all cost, may be true after all, and the person at the centre of this questionable deal, is the IPMC CEO, Amar Deep S. Hari - an Indian man who Ghana has gifted a soft-landing many years ago. But now, he has elected to pay back the country in this manner.

Background
This ITAS deal and the way it been handled in the past, till now that Julie Essiam has unilaterally dished it on a silver platter to an Indian company, without the blessing of a board, PPA and the CTRC, has been nothing but questionable.

Long before even the former Commissioner General wrote in January 3, 2024 to cancel the deal, he had written way back in August 2023 to inform all 12 candidates who put in bids for the contract that due to budgetary constraints the bidding process had been cancelled. Then a month later, September 2023, on the blind side of 11 candidates, he wrote exclusively to IPMC/Tata to submit their technical and financial proposal for approval.

Find copies of the two letter below:

Meanwhile, prior to clandestinely writing the September 2023 letter exclusively to IPMC/Tata, the former CG commissioned KPMG to do a further audit of all the 12 bids, and the results for the three top bidders, each of which obtained over 80% score on technical competencies, indicated that the local entity already doing the job, Axon Information System scored highest on financials (value for money) with about US$42 million, while IPMC/Tata scored the lowest because they were the most expensive - US$69.7 million. Atos and Persol Consult was second with US$61 million.

After it came to the attention of the former CG and the then GRA board, that the matter was being investigate by Techfocus24, and it was about to go public, the former CG heeded to the voice of reason and pulled the brakes on the deal. Indeed, he was said to have even written to the government informing them of the challenges with the contract, just like he reportedly did in the case of the controversial SML deal.

But, as it were, the government did not pay attention to the issues he raised and went ahead with its plan to capture domestic tax mobilization from a very competent local company and hand it over to an Indian company, whose solution called ITAx, has been found to be problematic and kicked out of parts of Africa, particularly Rwanda, Zambia, Uganda and Kenya.

CTRC Rejection
Moreover, the Central Tender Review Committee had long disqualified IPMC/Tata from getting the contract on the grounds that IPMC/Tata, among other things, failed to meet up to 80% of GRA’s requirements on deployment experience and also failed the 30% local content test.

This was contained in two separate letters dated January 20, 2023, and another one on March 30, 2023 in which the CTRC upheld its original position in the January letter.

Find copies of both letter below:

Again, the evidence is there to show that the current vendor - Axon, which is a wholly-Ghanaian-owned company, is doing a great job by all standards, and GRA officials have testified that Axon’s GITMIS (Ghana Integrated Tax Management and Information System) is at par with any ITAS in the world.

Techfocus24 did a very detailed article about how this whole process began and how it finally led to the replacement of the 62-year-old former CG, with a 61-year-old woman under very strange circumstances including the complete dissolution of the entire GRA board.

Check the link below for the full details:

Why the GRA boss was removed in favour of an Indian company

In spite of all the foregoing, the new CG, working under the whims and caprices of some state and private sector actors, have gone ahead and willed Ghana's domestic tax mobilization to an Indian company with a questionable solution.

The next government
Now that Julie Essiam has unilaterally signed Ghana's domestic tax mobilization away to Indians, it will be left for the next government, whether an NDC, NPP, New Force, Movement for Change, LPG or whichever it will be, to agree to work with the Indians or allow the Ghanaian company, said to be doing a great job at a much lower cost, to continue their good work.

Indeed, allowing an Indian company to manage domestic tax revenue mobilization in Ghana means more than just revenue collection. It means the data of Ghanaians, particularly taxpayers, which are linked to their Ghana Cards, will be at the disposal of an Indian company. Moreover, there is no telling how that company may manipulate the tax system in favour of its colleague Indian companies in Ghana.

There have been allegations somewhere in Africa, where one Indian IT company helped a very big and popular Indian merchant to evade taxes for a long time until 2014 when the fraud was discovered. But the case did not go far because the state institutions handling the matter, and some politicians with knowledge of the matter, allegedly got compromised and allowed the matter to die.

By Samuel Dowuona

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